They are definitely both very different records. “sky of dresses” was recorded at a friend’s home studio over a period of several months and “Ghost pain was done in a large Chicago studio in a couple weeks. I loved recording the new record because I was able to take time and reflect on the work we had done while we were still recording. With the last record it was done so fast I didn’t have much time to absorb anything until we were finished. The freedom of no time restrictions was a huge asset in making this record. I also experimented with different instrumentation like accordions and vintage organs.
2.0 Did you have any specific goals for the new recordings?
I think my main goal in recording “Sky of Dresses” was to keep the songs as pure as possible. Every song has its own intrinsic ambiace and I wanted to stay true to that. Some songs were done live with the backing band and have very few overdubs. Some songs worked better with a lot of layered instruments on top. I wanted the record to feel complete and whole even if the songs were recorded with a different approach.
3.0 Are all the songs on it new to fans?
A few tunes developed during the recording process. When you’re playing the guitar or piano all day at the studio something new is bound to develop. “Awful mind” was like that. I just started jamming it at the end of another song and it kind of developed on its own. Many of the songs I have been playing live for sometime though.
4.0 Did putting your name ‘on-the-door’ raise the stakes for you as an artist?
Performing under my own name has ultimately given me more self-confidence as a performer. I love the freedom of being able to play solo or with a band.. When I first stared playing in bands I wrote all the songs but the members would keep changing. When someone new was replaced the songs would kind of mutate and take on a new identity. I loved that but I felt like I wasn’t really in a band and decided to be a solo artist.
5.0 Is there anything quintessentially Midwestern about your music?
That’s a great question. I think that I’m definitely influenced by the Midwest in a lot of ways. You don’t always realize how your roots shape you until you start touring and meeting the rest of the world. It’s hard to say, I guess there isn’t quite a “Midwest sound” the way they people throw around Portland or Seattle but I think there is something here that’s unique.
6.0 What comes first for you, the narrative or the chords?
I almost always start with the chords and melody before the lyrics. I have a ton of unfinished songs with no lyrics just bouncing around my head. For me, its worth it to be patient because if the words don’t resonate with me then I cant sing them. I have older songs that I love the tune of but I sing the words and I feel nothing. I made it a rule to never match a good melody to meaningless words even If it takes years to pair the right ones up. Which has happened! There are those songs though when your consciousness is turned off and everything writes itself at once. It’s an amazing feeling but I stopped trying to figure out how it happens years ago.
7.0 Dylan used to joke that he was really “a song & dance man,” was he just being ‘folksy’ or do you think he meant something by it?
Theirs nothing I love more then Dylan irony.
8.0 Is creating a context for the listener what appeals to you most about folk sensibility; a story in every song?
I think creating a mood is the most important thing to me. I love telling a story but without the melody to compliment the lyrics the mood is undetermined. Most of my songs do have a strong narrative to them but if I were to place them in a different context with a different tune, the words would be interpreted differently. So in that sense I think finding the harmony and balance between the two is what appeals most to me about folk sensibility.
9.0 Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen?
I think all songwriters respond to triggers in some way or another. Songwriting is like therapy. It gives me a chance to obsess about thoughts and feelings in a way that’s constructive. I figure if I’m gonna go crazy with all of this shit in my head I might as well put it to music and at least be able to enjoy listening to myself belly ache. But yeah, I guess you could say the many facets of love and loss mostly trigger me.
10.0 Your video for “Blues For Momma” has you wandering streets and seems to suggests a detached sorrow, do you have the blues?
Ha. I guess you could say I have the blues.